Skagit County Planning Commissioner Mark Lundsten abruptly resigned Tuesday, citing a monthslong disagreement with the rest of the commission over whether he had a right to offer a minority opinion on a vote.
His resignation stems out of a dispute over the role of an individual commissioner, and whether a minority opinion should be included in a Planning Commission recommendation.
Lundsten was censured by the commission in September after sending a letter to the Skagit County Board of Commissioners that said he believed he and his colleagues did an inadequate job considering all sides of an issue about protecting heron nesting grounds.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Lundsten accused his colleagues of repressing “free expression of ideas,” saying the censure was an attempt to chill dissent.
His colleagues said at the time his letter was an attack on the credibility of the commission and its process, and undermined the purpose of the commission, which is to develop a single recommendation about planning issues to the county Board of Commissioners.
Lundsten, whose term expires in August, said his resignation was necessary as his relationship with the rest of the commission had become unworkable.
“We just had irreconcilable differences,” he said.
Tim Raschko, commission chair and one of the seven members who voted to censure Lundsten, said a commissioner has every opportunity to speak their mind as the commission deliberates. Meetings are public and archived online, so anyone who wants to can learn what an individual commissioner thought on any one topic.
However, Raschko said once the commission has made a decision, it’s always been the case to present a unified recommendation.
Raschko said he found himself in a similar position to Lundsten last year, when he disagreed with the majority on a proposal to remove a special mineral designation from a property. He didn’t agree with the recommendation, but felt as if he’d done his best during meetings to share his point of view.
“If you can’t convince the majority, that’s how it is,” he said.
A censure carries no penalty and is simply a statement that the commission disagreed with a member’s actions.
However, Lundsten asked that the censure be removed, and the commission refused.
Lundsten, a Democrat, ran in November for a seat on the county Board of Commissioners, but lost to Republican incumbent Ron Wesen.
Wesen said he watches every Planning Commission meeting, and said members give each other plenty of time to share opposing views.
As such, he said he sees no need to change the way the commission operates to incorporate a minority opinion.
Planning commissioners are appointed by the county Board of Commissioners, and Wesen said the board is looking for candidates for Lundsten’s seat. Those interested can contact his office at 360-416-1300.